Pitchside Europe

Klopp’s swift Goetze call a mini-masterstroke

Pitchside Europe

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Borussia Dortmund's star player, Mario Goetze, is out of the Champions League final. There's no way to spin this as a good thing.

The fans may have turned against him in light of his summer move to Saturday's opponents Bayern Munich, but he remains a key player for Dortmund.

Or rather, remained, because his thigh injury means he has played his final game for the club.

It's a big blow for a team that need all their big guns firing against a side that finished 25 points ahead of them in the Bundesliga table.

But ruling Goetze out three days before the final is the smartest move Juergen Klopp could make.

At a stroke, he extinguishes the media firestorm of 'Will he, won't he?' stories. He removes uncertainty. He gives himself a chance to settle on a new starting lineup, and his players a chance to focus on a Goetze-free future.

What's more, he removes the temptation to throw out a half-fit Goetze in a desperate attempt to coax one last moment of genius from his main man.

The deployment of ailing star players rarely ends well - in fact the trail of wreckage stretches all the way back to the 1998 World Cup final.

There, coach Mario Zagallo omitted Ronaldo from the Brazil team after the striker suffered a seizure.

Mysteriously, Ronaldo was reinstated and proceeded to perform like an impostor as a disturbed and disjointed Brazil fell to a 3-0 defeat against France.

England have had plenty of experience in this department. David Beckham taught us all about the metatarsal in 2002, and went to the World Cup while patently below his best. Fatefully, the England captain jumped out of a tackle that led to a Brazil goal, and England departed in the quarter-finals.

The same body part failed Wayne Rooney prior to the 2006 tournament - again he made the trip in body but not performance as he struggled for fitness in Germany.

And Gareth Barry completed the trilogy by playing the 2010 World Cup despite a hobbling ankle injury - a decision whose folly was neatly illustrated by the sight of Germany's Mesut Ozil motoring past him.

This season's Champions League has seen two prominent examples - Efe Ambrose played Celtic's last 16 first leg against Juventus despite arriving in Glasgow from the African Cup of Nations on the morning of the match.

It showed, and Ambrose's blundering display propelled Juve to a fortunate 3-0 win.

Perhaps the best case came in the semi-finals, when Barcelona were boosted by the news Lionel Messi would start the first leg against Bayern.

But the world's greatest player looked more like a pub clogger as the Germans romped to a 4-0 win. Mind you, Messi didn't play in the second leg and Barcelona lost 3-0 at home.

Goetze's absence on Saturday might hurt - but not as much as the sight of Dortmund's talisman limping his way to defeat at Wembley. Klopp has made the best of a bad situation.

Alex Chick - @alexchick81

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